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District Court Denies Preliminary Injunction Where Plaintiffs Could Not Show Irreparable Harm Because Defendant Is Large and Well Established Company

Plaintiff Hill-Rom Company, Inc. (“Hill-Rom”) filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against General Electric Company (“GE”). The district court began its discussion by noting that “[t]he Federal Circuit has said that preliminary injunctions are a “drastic and extraordinary remedy” that should not routinely be used. Nat’l Steel Car. Ltd. v. Canadian Pac. Rv., Ltd., 357 F.3d 1319, 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2004). There are four factors to consider when determining whether to grant a preliminary injunction in a patent infringement case: 1) likelihood of success on the merits; 2) irreparable harm; 3) the balance of hardships; and 4) the public interest. Celsis In Vitro. Inc. v. CellzDirect. Inc., 664 F.3d 922, 926 (Fed. Cir. 2012).”

The district court then focused on the irreparable harm factor. “The most salient of the factors in the present case is the second, concerning irreparable harm. The Court FINDS that the Plaintiffs have not made a sufficient showing that., without a preliminary injunction, they will suffer irreparable harm. General Electric Company (“GE”) is a very large and well established corporation; any harm that Hill-Rom may suffer from GE manufacturing and selling its AgileTrac Hand Hygiene System (“AgileTrac”) can be quantified and the Plaintiffs will be able to be made whole. There is no question that the Plaintiffs will be able to collect on a judgment, should they win one.

The district court also found that there was not a sufficient showing of a likelihood of success on the merits. “The Court further FINDS that 1-Ell-Rom has not met its burden to show a likelihood of success on the merits, the other most critical factor. GE has raised substantial questions as to whether it has infringed the asserted patents in this case. Much ado, for example, was made over whether GE’s AgileTrac system tracks workers’ movement or only their present location (albeit very frequently). Claim l of patent number 6,727,818 (“the ‘818 patent”) claims a system that determines “whether a person who has entered a patient contact zone has washed her hands since her most recent exposure to a contamination zone other than her current exposure to the patient contact zone.” Exh. A to Cmpl., pg. 26, ECF No. 1-1 (emphasis added). In this sense, the ‘818 patent claims systems that record movement–or have “memory” of workers’ prior locations– does not track movement in this sense: AgileTrac apparently requires all workers to wash their hands when entering certain designated rooms, without any memory of their prior location or past hand-washing actions. Thus there is a substantial question about whether GE’s system infringes the ‘818 patent on the movement, or “memory, claim alone.’ Similar substantial questions have been raised by GE regarding the other two asserted patents. Thus, the factor regarding the likelihood of success on the merits weighs against granting a preliminary injunction.”

Accordingly, the district court denied the motion for preliminary injunction but set an expedited trial schedule so that “Hill-Rom can obtain whatever relief to which it is entitled, if any, as soon as reasonably possible.”

Hill-Rom Company, Inc., et al. v. General Electric Company, Case No. 2:14-cv-00187-RGD-LRL (E.D. Va. July 15, 2014)

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